BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for July 22, 2012 - July 28, 2012

10 things we didn't know last week

15:17 UK time, Friday, 27 July 2012

Snippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. A patas monkey would beat Usain Bolt's 100m world record by three seconds.
More details

2. The Olympic Village has its own mayor.
More details

3. Vampires were a worry in Bulgaria 700 years ago.
More details (National Geographic)

4. Modern pop is louder and less varied than that of the 1950s and 60s.
More details (Daily Mail)

5. Between Laos's first Olympics in 1980 and 2004, all its competitors came last or second-to-last.
More details (The Times)

6. Men's brains are designed to shut down after sex.
More details (Sunday Times)

7. The larger its horn, the healthier is a male rhinoceros beetle.
More details

8. A single artificial intelligence programme or "bot" can create 30,000 Wikipedia articles in one year.
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9. Nit combs are much older than previously thought.
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10. The 750,000 feral camels that roam the Australian outback are now the world's largest wild herd.
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Seen a thing? Tell @BBC_magazine on Twitter using the hashtag #thingIdidntknowlastweek

Your Letters

14:53 UK time, Friday, 27 July 2012

"The exhumation is to be carried out at the end of September, after descendants said that the tomb thought to be his may not contain his body" [Hilarious comment about his coffin being too flat and suspiciously full of raisins].
MK, Stockport

OK, so it's not nominative determinism in its strictest sense, but a superbly appropriate moniker nonetheless.
Lucy, London

From this article, "Although the root is Indian, South Asians have no single word to describe their many, distinct dishes." How about food?
Rob, London

I was about to write and disagree about your article saying that one should not talk with strangers on public transport (and I assumed in public places such as restaurants), until I continued and read that folk in Wales, et cetera, were much friendlier. We went to a restaurant in Swansea, and made a comment to a fellow diner, and were then treated to a long (20 minutes perhaps) and interesting conversation about dining, and all this while his meal got colder and colder ...
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

Planning to visit London in the next few days. Anything special happening there this time of year?
Johan van Slooten, Urk, The Netherlands

Caption Competition

12:56 UK time, Friday, 27 July 2012


Winning entries in the Caption Competition.

The competition is now closed. Full rules can be seen here [PDF].


This week, it was models displaying shoes at a fashion show in Medellin, Colombia.

Thanks to all who entered. A small quantity of kudos to the following:

6. MightyGiddyUpGal wrote:
Beware of cliques wearing lifts.

5. Raven Clare wrote:
High-rise flats.

4. SkarloeyLine wrote:
Models' union accepts a 5% increase in wedges.

3. The Coachman wrote:
Well, there's nothing specifically in the IOC rules for the high-jump, but...

2. Alien Avenger wrote:
Katie Holmes takes revenge after the separation by selling their huge collection of footwear at a local car boot sale.

1. CindyAccidentally wrote:
"And then we all say: 'No, honestly, Usain, these are the new regulation running shoes..."

Paper Monitor

10:39 UK time, Friday, 27 July 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

There's only one story to speak of this morning.

No, it's not the man wanted by the police for eating a bus seat. Nor is it the thieving couple, aged 77 and 68, fitted with electronic tags.

No, it's the 30th Olympiad, about to begin in London and, unsurprisingly, dominating every title.

For Paper Monitor's money, the best front page is that of the Times, a wraparound front-and-back job which features the bold slogan "LET THE GAMES BEGIN" over a sunrise behind an Olympics rings-bedecked Tower Bridge.

The Daily Mail's splash - "GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH BEGINS!" - is cheerful, upbeat and optimistic, not three adjectives that are always associated with that newspaper.

It's the Daily Mirror which comes closest to striking a downcast note, although positivity breaks out by the end of its banner. "Forget the £9.2bn, the security staff shambles, the traffic jams, the ticket fiascos, the crowded trains, the sponsorship rows, the rain, the heat, the dodgy banners, the wrong flag and even leaving out Becks," it begins. "The greatest show on earth starts today and it's going to be truly AMAZING."

The only slightly odd note, for Paper Monitor, is the Daily Telegraph's headline: "Get the party started."

In Paper Monitor's understanding, this phrase is best known as the title of a 2001 single by the popular beat singer Pink.

Will Telegraph readers appreciate the reference? Paper Monitor isn't sure, but hopes they, like everyone else, enjoys the games.

Your Letters

17:55 UK time, Thursday, 26 July 2012

Perhaps in a list of "Buildings that weren't" (or were never completed) they should have included Stonehenge. Still it'll look a lot better when they get the curtains up.
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

I mean come on, you're the Prime Minister's wife, they know who you are!
Judith, Weybridge, Surrey

Surely Paper Monitor (Wednesday) isn't seriously going to start cooking with ink-stained hands? Wouldn't you wash them first?
Anita, Poole

Don't worry Jon (Wednesday's letters), it's not replicating, Grant is simply middle management. He doesn't programme the bot himself, nor does he ask someone else to programme it, instead he asks someone to ask someone to programme it.
David, Cannock, UK

Paper Monitor

13:41 UK time, Thursday, 26 July 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Thoroughly approving of this glorious weather, Paper Monitor's urge to hop on a plane and get away from it all in on a balmy beach has been much less, um, urgent, of late.

Besides, travelling can be such a hassle. All the expense, intimidating border control staff, the "where IS my passport?"-related woes, etc etc.

No such problems for 11-year-old Liam Corcoran.

Sans passport, boarding pass, money and parental permission, the adventurous young chap managed to evade five security checks and hop on a Rome-bound flight at Manchester airport.

Ah, Roma! The history, the romance, the beauteous artefacts. But Liam's destination choice wasn't particularly considered. He'd run away, upset at being "ticked off" by his mum at a swimming lesson, and was looking for a loo, reports the Sun.

"I didn't sneak through. I just wanted to go to the toilet".


Speaking exclusively to the paper, the "5ft lad", whose sheepish grin is splashed across the front page, explains how straightforward it was to sneak aboard and take to the skies.

"Getting on the plane was easier than doing my homework. I went in the toilet and sat there, but I couldn't get out. Then - whoosh! - we were going up in the sky."

The papers love this tale, not least for the punning opportunities.

"Rome Alone", ventures the Daily Express over its interview with a friend of Liam's father:

"One of the security men at the airport found him before he got on the plane, but he still managed to escape. He's a little wriggler."

And the Daily Mail hears from one of Liam's neighbours:

"I think he's going to be a bit of a hero among his friends for managing it."

"Done Roaming" puns the Daily Mirror (geddit?). Liam's father tells the paper that this trumps his son's previous travels, which have been less Roman Holiday and more Blackpool promenade in a tram.

"He has never flown before. The nearest he is going to get to planes in future will be an Airfix kit."

Ooh, model planes! Takes Paper Monitor right back.

Paper Monitor

16:43 UK time, Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Looks like Gretna Green will become popular again.
Fee Lock, Hastings, East Sussex

That Rorschach Test of "two elephants dancing" I saw as "two elephants having a drink" ... oh, dear
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

"You'd have to have someone actually have someone programme the bot to go crazy and delete everything," Grant says. It's started replicating already!
Jon Barnes, Bridgend

Re this stat : I wish viewers to my house in Wales were among this percentage.
Tim McMahon, Martos/Spain

Re Tuesday letters: Tom, your parents weren't in Temperance, Michigan, were they?
Martin Pearson, Hoosick Falls, Upstate NY, USA

Paper Monitor

13:23 UK time, Wednesday, 25 July 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor wasn't remotely surprised to wake up this morning to news that Britain's middle-aged are the most depressed in the country, according to a "Happiness" report commissioned by the PM. (Prime minister, that is. Not Paper Monitor. Or indeed Radio 4's PM).

Your humble correspondent often reflects wistfully upon the heady days of youth. Or looks forward to the twilight years, when the papers will finally be hung up for the last time and the quill put down; the ink-stained hands turned to horticulture and haute cuisine. 

For now, Paper Monitor should just be grateful not to be living in Thurrock, says the Guardian. More specifically, not to be a divorced, middle-aged machine-operative living in Thurrock. 

But having read the Times, watch this column for news that the Monitor's next missive has been filed from the Shetland Islands - officially one of "the happiest places in Britain".

Meanwhile, we understand that a noble scion of the house of Hollywood is soon to join these shores to take up the mantle of the English aristocracy. 

Dame Shirley MacLaine is reportedly the latest in a string of luminaries to grace the Downton Abbey screen, joining the likes of Hugh Bonneville and Maggie Smith.  

That paper of record, the Sun, reports that MacLaine has made the somewhat startling revelation that she and Dame Maggie were once lovers (in a previous life, she addends, but offers precious little detail.)

Which could explain the stage fright reported by the Daily Star

"Downton Abbey's actors were so starstruck when they filmed with Shirley MacLaine they almost forgot their words."

Downton Abbey was very much in our mind as we flicked through the Daily Mail and happened upon a stricture against incorrect sleeve lengths sported in the presence of her Majesty.

This "cuff clanger" occurred when four prime ministers, past and present, appeared in her royal presence apparently needing some attention from their valets.

Paper Monitor can't help but sigh, remove a barely visible greying hair from one's suit-shoulder and reach for a copy of Debretts.

Your Letters

18:16 UK time, Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Re "Landmark buildings that never were," you've missed out one contemporary one. Back in the 1970s, plans were drawn up for Northamptonshire County Council's new council office, and one plan submitted was for a steel and glass pyramid. It was hierarchical, in that the chief executive occupied the office at the pinnacle of the pyramid, with rank decreasing as one went down the floors to the ground floor. It was proposed to orientate it such that sun shone into the chief financial officer's office on the first day of the new financial year.
Richard W Jones, Welshpool

I wonder how many Americans started thinking that Germany also uses their national car-breakdown service. My parents once asked at a motel in the US if they did a discount for "AA members". A very puzzled employee asked "Why would we give a discount for Alcoholics Anonymous?!"
Tom Hartland, Loughborough, UK

Quote of the day: "We believe there may be slight but still significant differences to the way our local population walks". Er, not to mention the slight, but still significant, differences in the way your local population talk.
Henri, Sidcup

I used to do this. If we had YouTube in the days of my youth, seriously, I'd also be famous!
Judith, Weybridge, Surrey

Olympic flame takes London Tube - another headline that promises so much but fails to deliver.
Rose, UK

Paper Monitor

14:02 UK time, Tuesday, 24 July 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Hurrah! It's still scorchio - "Britain's baking... and it's going to get hotter", exclaims the Daily Express - and so Paper Monitor continues to bask in finally-it's-summer-shocker-related stories.

And it's not all pictures of bikini-ed young women frolicking in the surf (long-standing readers of Paper Monitor will be familiar with your humble columnist's long-running strand, Brighton Beach Mammoirs). No, no - we also get some high drama in the shape of the "jaws-dropping" moment a canoeist came face-to-face with a "monster" 23ft shark near Land's End, in Cornwall, yesterday.

"Fins are hotting up", puns the Daily Star, but - soothes the Sun - it's "No fin to worry about", pointing out that the creature is no more than a harmless basking shark.

Phew. It's safe to get back in the water again, bikini-ed young women!

On which note - temperatures start soaring once more with the Star's comprehensive picture gallery of pop star Rihanna's best recent swimwear efforts, accompanied by detailed analysis.

The songstress - holidaying in the Med - has been posing in a number of snazzy designs - ranging from zig zag, leopard print, palm trees and bright orange fabrics. She's so versatile! Luckily for the Good Girl Gone Bad singer, Rihanna "looks sizzling hot in each and every one", sigh.

And according to new research, there's plenty more "hotness" left in the 24-year-old Bajan star - a number of papers, including the Daily Mail, nod to a survey which claims that British women feel sexiest at the age of 28 - Pippa Middleton is cited as an example poster girl - with their self-confidence peaking at 32.

Cue lots of images of appropriately-aged celebrity beauties, including the aforementioned Pippa..

Scorchio, indeed.

Your letters

16:26 UK time, Monday, 23 July 2012

"Promiscuous squid swim more slowly after sex" (10 Things, 20 July) - I think this just overtook "The Leith Police Dismisseth Us" as the most entertaining tongue-twister.
Paul H, Hull, UK

Why Wiggins won the Tour de France? Probably by cycling faster than anyone else...
David Richards, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

"10 things we didn't know last week: 2. The Nazis plotted to kill Sir Winston Churchill with an exploding bar of chocolate." Nostalgia! I used to love space dust when I was a kid.
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

Isabelle Gillette-Faye on this story Toe curling nominative determinism
Buzz, London

Basil, the F35 aircraft is known as Lightning II as it is TOO expensive.
Martin Pearson, Hoosick Falls, Upstate NY, USA

Paper Monitor

10:36 UK time, Monday, 23 July 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor knows the British obsession with the weather has made rather depressing reading recently, so it is glad that now, at last, people have something to smile about.

"At last, here comes the sun," says the Daily Express, which boasts Britain will bask in tropical temperatures this week.

"Summer's finally arrived", says the Daily Telegraph in a more measured manner, warning that showers are forecast for Friday.

But it is the Times' leader which tickles Paper Monitor the most, firstly by declaring its tongue-in-cheek "campaign" for an end to the drizzle (first launched two weeks ago) has been a "triumph".

It cites not just rainfall figures as a metric of success, but also the rising number of discussions about climatic conditions - on street corners, Twitter, Facebook - as evidence, noting it has "created, almost by accident, the Big Society".

But now the principal objective of the weather campaign - to get better weather - has been secured, the leader decides it is time to turn to the "disturbing questions raised by the poor conditions that millions had to endure for too long".

Why weren't the arrangements for good weather for the Olympics put in place much earlier? The Greeks, for instance, had no need for last-minute campaigns when they were hosts. Why did it require a newspaper to do the Government's job?

The paper suggests that perhaps a cosy relationship between those who make the weather and those who report it is to blame. "We will need to see their text messages," it teases.

Paper Monitor can't help but smile too.

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